Celebrating CanopyLAB’s 6th birthday – an interview with the founders

On August 28th, CanopyLAB celebrated its 6th birthday; the same week, the CanopyLAB platform for educators called TeacherLAB turned one year old. The TeacherLAB platform surpassed 100,000 users, and TeacherLAB was nominated for an SDG Tech Award. This was the 3rd year in a row a CanopyLAB initiative was nominated. A hell of a month, some might say. We sat down with founders Christian Skræm Juul Jensen and Sahra-Josephine Hjorth to chat about what the past year has meant for them and the company.

 

Keyla: We know that past year 5, more than 50 % of startups have failed. How come CanopyLAB is growing?

Digital learning is now a megatrend, and we have never seen more venture capital pour into the space.

 

Christian: The COVID-19 pandemic has matured the elearning industry significantly over a brief period of time. Digital learning is now a megatrend, and we have never seen more venture capital pour into the space. Some schools and universities considered a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) as a “nice to have” product before the pandemic – today, it is critical infrastructure.

[…]we focused on Africa and Latin America and have seen massive growth as a result.

 

Sahra-Josephine: We have always been very open-minded and have listened to the market. When the pandemic hit, everyone doubled down on the US as the most exciting market. Instead, we focused on Africa and Latin America and have seen massive growth as a result. Many investors will tell you that a dollar in America is worth more than a dollar in South Africa – but that’s not the case. Also, we learned that it was faster and cheaper to make a dollar in, for example, Colombia.

Keyla: We know that some bigger platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and even Facebook still struggle to monetize in those regions. What does CanopyLAB do differently?

Sahra-Josephine: it’s all about product-market fit, timing, and inclusivity. With our significant local presence in Colombia and Peru, our users can identify with us, our content, and our branding. That coupled with a stellar product, good customer service, and a price point they can afford – well, that is a winning receipt.

Keyla: What experiences stand out from the past year?

Digital learning is now a megatrend, and we have never seen more venture capital pour into the space.

 

Christian: Well, there are quite a lot of us now, spread between Vietnam, Denmark, the US, Colombia, and Peru. We have become masters at working remotely with distributed teams across time zones. We don’t work in silos and are excellent at collaborating. That is something I am very proud of.

Keyla: So transitioning to working from home and going back to the office was no big deal?

Christian: The future of the workforce is distributed. Most of our team members have never met one another. Since the pandemic, we grew more than 100% in total number of staff, so if you design deliberately for that reality, it can be very successful. And obviously, we use our platform for onboarding, socializing and ongoing training.

Keyla: Sahra-Josephine, what stands out to you looking back at this year that has passed?

Sahra-Josephine: For me, the biggest milestone was signing with Sparkmind.vc from Finland and working closely together with Kai Talas who is a partner there and who manages our case. I’m thrilled to have partners on board who are experts in the field of learning and technology. Together we have really poured fuel on our growth. We are working deliberately to hit 1 million users. That will be massive. Most SaaS companies never get to that. 

Christian: From a technical perspective, our growth and the pandemic have forced us to focus on optimization. I have been keeping a close eye on the platform and how it has responded to a vast increase in traffic. Not only have hundreds of thousands of users joined, but we also see that our users use the platform up to 8 times as much.

Sahra-Josephine: Our roles within the company have changed a lot as well. I am lucky to have a very strong management team who keep an eye on the day-to-day and I get to focus on fundraising, investor relations, and press. We launched a couple of YouTube shows last year and it has been a lot of fun to play around with different formats and concepts all with the goal of engaging people in learning.

Keyla: And what has been the most significant change for you, Christian?

Christian: My team has grown, and we have launched the self-building course based on AI. It was such an ambitious project from a technical point of view, and with it, we have really cemented our position as one of the most innovative software companies in the world and one of the top 5 edtech platforms globally.

Keyla: Let’s try to predict what will happen in the year to come. What do you look forward to?

Christian: Certainly the A round. As usual, we have a lot of investor traction, so it’s all about finding a VC who shares our vision. I’m excited about some of the new AI features in our chatbots; soon you will be able to get feedback from and engage in discussions with the chatbot. I’m stoked about enabling Siri in our software, and then I’ll keep a few aces up my sleeve for later.

Sahra-Josephine: We are going to host a huge party when we hit 1 million users. That’s something I’m really excited about, and also about our commitment to reach 10 million by 2025. Positively impacting 10 million people – that has got to be the dream of every learning nerd out there. Additionally, I am excited about the potential of TeacherLAB – can we build the world’s largest learning community for educators? I think we can!

 


 

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